North American Scholar

ELSE, Gerald Frank

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1908-07-01
  • Born City: Redfield
  • Born State/Country: SD
  • Parents: Frank Marston & Minnie Marylouise Beckman E
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1982-09-06
  • Death City: Chapel Hill
  • Death State/Country: NC
  • Married: Martha Post Wight, 15 June 1939; Gladys Hart Burian, 1 Jan. 1976.
  • Education:

    Study at U. Nebraska; A.B. Harvard 1929; Ph.D. 1934.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. Gk. & Lat., tutor class. Harvard, 1930-2, 1935-8; instr. Gk. & Lat. Cambridge Jr. Coll., 1934-5; faculty instr. & sr. tutor, Winthrop House, 1938-42; captain, Office of Strategic Services, 1943-5; head dept. class. State U. Iowa, 1945-56; prof. Gk. & Lat., U. Michigan, 1957-78; chair dept. class, stud., 1957-68; dir. Ctr. Coord. Anc. & Modern Studies, 1969-76; Fulbright fell., Rome, 1956-7; pres. CAMWS, 1955-6; pres. APA, 1963-4; mem. Nat. Counc. Hum., 1966-72; Mellon vis. prof, class., U. Pittsburgh, 1969; Danforth vis. lecturer, Assn. Am. Colls. 1972; assoc., Nat. Hum. Center, 1980; fell. A A AS.

  • Dissertation:

    “Quo modo Plato Ideas Expresserit” (Harvard, 1934); res. HSCP 45 (1934) 247-50.

  • Publications:

    “Lucretius and the Aesthetic Attitude,” HSCP 41 (1930) 149-82; Aristotle's Poetics: the Argument (Cambridge, 1957); “Agamemnon 1421-4,” CP 52 (1957) 33; The Origin and Early Form of Greek Tragedy, Martin Classical Lectures, 20 ^[Cambridge, 1965); Homer and the Homeric Problem, Lectures in Memory of Louise Taft Semple (Cincinnati, 1965); Aristotle's Poetics (Ann Arbor, 1967); The Structure and Date of Book 10 of Plato's Republic, AHAW, Phil-hist. KL, 1972, Abh. 3 (Heidelberg, 1972); The Madness of Antigone, ibid., 1976, Abh. 1 (Heidelberg, 1976); Plato and Aristotle on Poetry (posthumous), ed. Peter Burian (Chapel Hill, 1986).

  • Notes:

    A son of the western prairies, Gerald Else was, at the height of his career, not only one of America's foremost classicists but also a national spokesman for the humanities, an advocate and fosterer of interdisciplinary studies, and an internationally acclaimed scholar. Launched on his future career at the University of Nebraska, he soon moved east, where he was absorbed into the intellectual life of Harvard, as student, teacher, scholar. As an undergraduate he twice won the Sargent Prize for his translations from Horace's Odes. His honors thesis, “Lucretius and the Aesthetic Attitude,” forerunner of his life-long interest in aesthetic theory, was published in HSCP. His doctoral dissertation, one of the last at Harvard written in Latin, won the Bowdoin Prize in Classics. After distinguished war service in Greece, Italy, Egypt, and Liberia, he succeeded Roy Flickinger at Iowa State, where he wrote his most important work, Aristotle's Poetics: the Argument, called by Thomas Rosenmeyer “one of the high points in the history of Classics in America.” He was summoned to the University of Michigan in 1957 and there he founded in 1969 the influential Center for the Coordination of Ancient and Modern Studies and was its director until his retirement. Through this institution he organized transdisciplinary conferences and stimulated research and publications on such diverse topics as city planning, oral poetry, Hölderlin, and the classical tradition in America. From the center Else's influence radiated throughout the country and abroad. His own scholarly interests, pursued over a period of about 50 years with “restless penetration,” were equally varied, and included especially studies in Aristotle, Plato, the Homeric problem, the figure of Antigone, the origins and character of early Greek tragedy, Lucretius, and the classical tradition in America. At the University of Michigan he directed ten doctoral dissertations, almost one per year. In his honor there were established at Michigan the Else Lectures in the Humanities and the Gerald F. Else Professorship of Classical Studies

  • Sources:

    John D'Arms, APA Newsletter 6,2 (Spring 1983) 2-3; DAS 1982:147; introduction to Ancient and Modern: Essays in Honor of Gerald F. Else, ed. John H. D'Arms & John W. Eadie (Ann Arbor, 1977); WhAm 1980-81:1996.

  • Author: Meyer Reinhold